By Assemblyman Brian Jones
California Assembly District 71
In recent weeks several constituents have contacted my office informing me they are offended about comments I’ve made regarding the Second Amendment. This is an open letter to all of my constituents to share the background of my views on the Second Amendment.
Please know that my position on the topic of the Second Amendment and gun ownership have not been made in haste. I have done some significant study and research in the past few years — most notably since my election to the Legislature. I now have a more distinct perspective, and question why the Second Amendment is offensive to so many, when our other constitutional rights are not?
Few argue with anyone’s right to free speech, freedom of religion, or our right to due process. Nor is there much argument about our right to a jury trial, or the abolition of slavery. Why then, does the Second Amendment cause such heartburn for some?
I believe it is largely due to revisionist history of the intent of our Founders — each of whom were thoughtful and intelligent men (much more than I). They had a keen understanding for the very basic need to protect self, family and home. What’s more, they knew full well what comes with a tyrannical government. Their words make it abundantly clear they believed the individual right to own firearms was very important:
•Thomas Jefferson said, “No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.”
•Patrick Henry said, “The great object is, that every man be armed.”
•Richard Henry Lee wrote that, “to preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms.”
•Thomas Paine noted, “[A]rms ... discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property.”
•Samuel Adams warned that: “The said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”
The Constitution repeatedly refers to the “rights” of the people and to the “powers” of government. The Supreme Court has recognized that the phrase “the people,” which is used in numerous parts of the Constitution, including the Preamble, the Second, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth amendments, refers to people as individuals. In each case, rights belonging to “the people” are without question the rights of individuals.
Since my election to the Assembly, I have seen firsthand how grossly the issue of gun ownership is being politically manipulated. There is little room for reason and virtually no room for the facts in the debate.
I find it noteworthy that the number of privately owned guns in the U.S. has reached an all-time high of over 300 million, and is actually increasing by approximately 10 million per year. I am not surprised that, given this data, the firearm accident death rate has fallen to an all-time low, 0.2 per 100,000 population, down 94 percent since the high in 1904. Actually, in the past 80-plus years, the annual number of firearm accident deaths has decreased 81 percent, while our nation’s population has more than doubled and the number of firearms has grown by five times.
Many facts could actually lend some reason to the debate. For example, the National Safety Council reports that firearms are used for personal defense 2.5 million times a year — which equates to a whopping 6,850 times a day. This means that each year, firearms are used 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives, and as many as 200,000 women use a gun every year to defend themselves against sexual abuse.
Protection of our life and liberty is a multi-pronged effort, and I take great care to work closely with members of law enforcement. Those who stand between the law-abiding and the lawless have a difficult task, and my call for individuals to become informed on the topic of personal firearm ownership comes from the understanding that we can’t rely on law enforcement to be everywhere at all times.
Most solutions to our crime rate will not come from Sacramento. It might surprise you that police are not even required to protect you: in Warren v. District of Columbia (1981), the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled, “police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection . . . . [A] government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular citizen.” In Bowers v. DeVito (1982), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled “[T]here is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.” That said, it is up to each one of us to safeguard our home and families.
I trust that with this background, you may have a better understanding of my thoughts because my views follow much careful deliberation and study. The subject of firearms and the Second Amendment are serious and have been weighed with factual evidence as well as a deep consideration of our constitutionally protected rights.
Thanks for listening.
Ramona is among communities in California Assembly District 71.